Homeopathic Advertising

I was attracted by a post by Shaun Curry Co-founder of Pixelrights on their blog, We laughed then decided it wasn’t funny at all largely because of the phrase ‘Homeopathic Advertising’ he invents in it.

It tells the story of how the UK Government Trade & Investment office (UKTi) approached him to use one of his pictures “in their new ‘GREAT Britain campaign’ “the biggest ever integrated Government international marketing campaign” with funding of £30 million” and which they say would be seen in “120 countries!!” Which sounds like good news except all that they were offering the photographer from that £30million was ‘exposure’.

After he contacted them suggesting they should pay for its use, they did offer him £100. Now for us people who sell stuff for use in newspapers and magazines that would not be an unusually low fee for single use – but this was a major campaign and they wanted to secure the “images for 2 years, with above and below the line advertising rights.”

Basically this means using the image in all sorts of media, both mass media – print, web, TV – and in more personalised advertising such as direct mail, email… If like me you are an advertising virgin (I did come close to selling an image to some clothing company a few years ago, I think it had some name like Gap, for a few thou, but they changed their mind at the last minute) you might want to read more about Above and Below the Line, but basically it means big bucks.

Quite how big – and how much to ask should UKTi get in touch with you and want free use you can work out from the Association of Photographers online usage calculator. You need to start by inputting your BUR or Base Usage Rate, which they advise should never be less than your normal day rate, and would include a single use of the image.

The calculator then allows you to multiply this for the various rights the client wants, including the type or usage and the countries in which the image would be used. If you try it out for the UKTi’s claim you are almost certain to end up somewhere well north of £10,000 – for which they were offering a byline.

Even on Alamy, putting in some details of just one of the uses can come up with four figure sums though I suspect many customers opt for vague things like ‘Marketing package’ at around $50 rather than paying for their actual usage. If I was at Alamy I’d take a close look at what UKTi have done with any images they have bought.

Curry found out he wasn’t the only photographer they had tried it on. They approached someone else with a similar image who also wasn’t going to play ball. I have a nasty suspicion they will have gone on trying other photographers until they found one who fell for it, probably someone who is a near-starving photojournalist who thought that getting a hundred (or even two if they had to raise their offer) wasn’t a bad deal, perhaps someone like me who found his best sale so far on Alamy this month was $20.

£30 million is a big budget, and photography is a vital part of the campaign. UKTi should be prepared to pay a reasonable price for it – and heads should roll there if people are prepared to compromise the project with derisory offers like this.

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